Grief is an emotion that is often associated with loss. This loss has many facets to it and can comprise the loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, or even something quite material. While grief can be a difficult and painful experience, it also has its virtues. Grief can become your greatest teacher when we understand and practice these virtuous pillars of grief. It can be the catalyst for spiritual transformation. Once we understand the virtues of grief, one can grow spiritually. In fact, we often understand spiritual growth after traumatic events as post-traumatic growth. This type of transformative experience is a positive blessing of the grieving journey.
Table Of Contents
- Post Traumatic Growth
- The Virtuous Pillars of Grief
- Awareness Of The Grief Journey
- Acceptance Of Grief
- The Virtue Of Choice
- Choose The Virtuous Pillars Of Grief
Post Traumatic Growth
Psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun coined the term “post-traumatic growth” in the mid-1990s. They observed that some individuals who had experienced traumatic events were not just resilient, but actually experienced positive changes in their lives. This has changed the way we look at trauma and has also changed the way I research grief and its traumatic effects.
PTG (Post Traumatic Growth)
Post-traumatic growth (PTG) refers to the positive psychological changes that individuals can experience because of adversity or trauma. An individual’s ability to identify new opportunities, perspectives, and strengths characterizes PTG following a traumatic event. Taylor.S. (2012). As an example, many soldiers who experienced trauma from battle in war zones often experience PTG, Taylor. S. (2021). Once you are faced with death or have arrived in your dark night of the soul, there is often a shifting of perspectives. At that moment of realization, something deep inside of you awakens to truth, and you drop the illusions it faced you with. This growth can occur in a variety of domains, including personal relationships, spirituality, and overall life satisfaction. While trauma can be a painful experience, PTG can help individuals find meaning and purpose in their lives, leading to increased resilience and personal growth.
Since then, PTG has become a growing area of research in psychology. This research has shown how people can use adversity to help them grow and develop spiritually and transcend the experiences of trauma in their lives.
Post Traumatic Growth Exemplified
Another example of post-traumatic growth comes from a colleague of mine, Walt McKinley. After serving in the American Navy for many years, he retired and wrote a book about his childhood traumatic experiences. Reading through the book, you identify immediately with the physical, emotional, and mental trauma that Walt experienced. However, Walt maintains that your history does not define your legacy and anyone can triumph over trauma. McKinley. W. (2022). He defines 4 keys of life that can help you come through your trauma.
- Speak your truth
- Accept and acknowledge
- Expose your superpower
PTG, can therefore be a blessing and turn your traumatic experiences into a new level of resilience and spiritual growth. In my mind, there are great virtues within trauma that become powerful catalysts for change. Therefore, I have developed a powerful model to help understand the power of your trauma through your grief journey. These are my Virtuous Pillars of Grief, and each pillar is a virtue that is a powerful transformative catalyst.
The Virtuous Pillars of Grief
The virtues of Grief are my framework that I have designed over my many years of studying grief and helping those who are suffering from the loss of a loved one. Whilst there are many facets and faces to grief, I will remain focussed on the loss after the passing of a loved one.
In all of my years of research and being acutely aware of the journey in grief through my own experiences. I see patterns in the journey. The old paradigms of understanding grief are antiquated and can cause more suffering than necessary. Therefore, my 3 virtuous pillars are simple to understand and relatively easy to apply to grief work, when you embark on your grief journey.
These virtues are awareness, acceptance, and choice.
Awareness Of The Grief Journey
The first virtue of grief is awareness. Being aware of the grief journey or that you are about to embark on that journey is of paramount importance when you want to transcend the pain and suffering caused within. Every aspect of suffering in grief is created by you and is contained within you. Awareness may sound easy, but you will need to dig deep and work to become more aware of all your emotions, your mind and your outward projections.
When we experience grief, we realize our emotions and the impact that the loss has had on our lives. This heightened awareness can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationships with others. By letting ourselves feel and process our feelings, we become more aware of our needs and wants. This can help us make better decisions in the future. When you have become aware, you can begin to transform the suffering from trauma to triumph.
Acceptance Of Grief
The second virtue of grief is acceptance. Grief can be a challenging emotion to deal with, and many people try to avoid it or suppress it. I have lost count of the people I have met, who refuse to accept the loss and hold onto whatever they can. Some Individuals, if not treated with counsel, can be at risk of developing psychosis and severe mental imbalance. However, when we accept our grief and allow ourselves to experience it fully, we can start to know what is real and what is false. We can start to move through our journey of acceptance.
Acceptance does not mean that we have to be happy about what has happened, but rather that we acknowledge and honor our feelings. We should not try and hide our emotions and allow them to surface so that we can become more attuned with them and then make our choice on how to deal with our grief.
The Virtue Of Choice
The third virtue of grief is choice. Whilst it does not consider this as a virtue because it precedes action. I have made it one because a virtue does not exist without choice, and in my mind, it is one of the greatest powers we have. While we cannot control the events that cause grief, we have a choice in how we respond to them, no matter how they show up in our lives. We can choose to wallow in our pain and despair, or we can choose to use our grief as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. By making a conscious choice to find meaning and purpose in our grief, we can transform it into a positive force in our lives.
Choose The Virtuous Pillars Of Grief
While grief can be a challenging and painful emotion that can linger, it also has its virtues. These 3 virtuous pillars help us by deep realizing of our emotions and accepting our grief. We can use our grief as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. We can make a conscious choice to find meaning and purpose. So, the next time you experience grief, remember that it is not just a negative emotion. It can also be a powerful tool to change your life and just hold onto the Virtues Of Grief to ignite your spiritual growth.
Tedeschi, R. G., Park, C. L., & Calhoun, L. G. (1998). Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual issues. In Posttraumatic growth (pp. 9-30). Routledge.
Taylor.S. (2021) Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation. New World Library (7, 2021)
Handbook of Posttraumatic Growth: Research and Practice. (2014). United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.
McKinley.W. (2022) Monsters in my house: A true story. Mckinley https://waltmckinley.com/
Taylor, S. (2012). Transformation through suffering: A study of individuals who have experienced positive psychological transformation following periods of intense turmoil and trauma. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 52, 30-52.